Monday, February 27, 2012

Interview and Book Giveaway: Chocolate Covered Murder by Leslie Meier

Please join me in welcoming Karen White to Socrates’ Book Review Blog Socrates' Cozy Cafe.

Karen is a talented actress who narrates many popular audio books. Her latest is CHOCOLATE COVERED MURDER by Leslie Meier. This is part of the cozy mystery series “Lucy Stone Mysteries”. I’ve read the first books of this series and love it. Karen is nice enough to allow me to interview her and is graciously offering an audio book for a giveaway. Details about the audio book giveaway will follow the interview!

Welcome, Karen, and thank you for joining us. Get ready for the interview…

1) What made you decide to narrate audio books?

I am a lifelong lover of books -- and was that annoying child who volunteered to read aloud in class, couldn’t wait for the Scholastic Book Orders to show up, and spent most of my adolescence hiding inside every book about animals ever written. I discovered audiobooks right around when I got married, and being a narrator has really sustained me (artistically and financially) during my mom years. The schedule is flexible so I can be around for my kids, but I still get to disappear into my studio and act out all the parts!

2) What was your first audio book and how did it all happen?

I actually started working as an editor for Dove Audio in Beverly Hills. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I figured it out, and it was a great way to learn what works and doesn’t in an audiobook performance. That led to working for Books-on-Tape as an assistant to the Producer of their LA studio, where I continued editing, ran casting sessions, directed books and then started narrating as well (once my boss figured out I was an actor!). I think the first book I did was a tell-all book about the Kennedy family. The main thing I remember was that I was just a few weeks pregnant (so it was still a secret) but that I was nauseous and dizzy on top of being nervous. Luckily, things got better after that.

3) Do you listen to audio books? Any favorites?

These days we listen to a lot of kids books as a family – on trips and in the house. I am a big fan of the author Wendy Mass and I love the way Kathleen McInerney narrates her books. We listened to the HARRY POTTER books so much I felt like Jim Dale was living with us. The very first audiobook I listened to was A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR by John Irving, narrated by George Guidall. That was one that had me sitting in the car quite a few times! Brilliant book and narration.

4) Is there any special training involved with narrating audio books?

I think it’s invaluable to be a trained actor. You have to know your “instrument” to be able to sustain reading for hours at a time without hurting it, but also so that your voice is fully connected to and expressive of what’s going on in your imagination. Most of us disconnect from our voices as we go through adolescence for self-protection – so we don’t reveal too much of what we’re really feeling. Actors have to go through a lot to uncover all that hidden stuff! It’s also helpful to work with an experience audiobook director to be guided on everything from how to turn pages efficiently or how far from the mic you need to be, to more creative things like pace and character.

5) What process do you go through before recording the book begins? Do you need to read the book first?

I almost always read the book first, unless there’s a real rush. Otherwise, you can run into some ugly surprises, like finding out that someone is actually from Namibia when you’d assumed they were from Cleveland. I’m a bit of a detail freak, so I make lots and lots of notes on the characters when I do my “prep” read and I make an Excel spreadsheet of all the words I need to look up for pronunciations.

6) Do you choose which books to narrate and, if so, how do you make that choice?

Honestly, I say yes to pretty much everything. I have turned books if I felt I couldn’t do a good job (as in, all the characters are from England, even though the book is set on Mars !!??). Or if it is just out of control violent and/or sexual, I try to stay away from those.

7) Do you have any favorite audio books from the ones you narrated?

I still love animal books so I’m always begging for those (Jill Shalvis’ ANIMAL MAGNETISM series was fun for that reason – cute pets and cute guys) and I really love doing books set in the Southeast part of the country. My adult life I’ve lived all over, but I grew up in VA/KY/NC, and my family is all there, so that’s still home. Narrating a book set in NC especially, is like wearing a favorite old sweater. Cozy and warm. I have the second of a pair of books by Joanna Catherine Scott coming out soon, CHILD OF THE SOUTH, a historical fiction set around the Civil War in NC. They are beautiful books and I’m very proud of them.

8) Do you work with the author at all when recording their books?

I love to talk to authors when they can spare the time – often they can be really helpful with pronunciations – but mostly because I am a big fan and I’m in awe of what they do!

9) Do you perform in any other venues besides audio books?

I do the occasional commercial, and I did a short film a couple years ago, but mostly I’m a narrator and a mom for now – which I’m grateful for.

10) What plans do you have for the future? What audio books do we have to look forward to?

I hope to do more mysteries – I love the challenge of pacing and tone that they offer. And I’m so glad to have discovered the “cozy” mystery. Too much violence gives me nightmares and I love a down to earth heroine, so the cozies are just right for me! I’ve done two of Charlotte Hinger’s books LETHAL LINEAGE and DEADLY DESCENT. I think she’s got another in the series and I hope I’ll do that. I loved Leslie Meier’s characters – hope I’ll get to do more of hers as well. Cross your fingers…

If you'd like to listen to a sample of the book, click here.

Thank you so much, Karen!

And now for a chance to win your very own audio book of Chocolate Covered Murder by Leslie Meier...Just fill in the form below...

A few rules...

1. We must have a valid email address.
2. US residents only.
3. The contest runs from midnight, February 27th until midnight, March 6th.
4. Once a winner is randomly chosen, I will contact them by mail. If I don't get a response within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.

For an extra entry...

1. Follow this blog, using Twitter, Google, or subscribe by email. (Specify how you follow.)
2. Post about this on your blog (leave a link for your post)
3. Post a comment telling us what your favorite audio book is.

Good luck everyone!

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  1. Any audio book by David Sedaris

  2. I loved listening to the Harry Potter books after I read them. The audio brought a new dimension to the characters. :)

  3. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.

  4. Smoking Seventeen by Janet Evanovitch. I laughed myself crazy!


  5. Smoking Seventeen by Janet Evanovitch. I laughed myself crazy!


  6. I've only read one book in this series. I liked it okay. Maybe I will have to try listening to it. I love a good narration. Great Review! Thanks :)

  7. My favorite audiobook would probably be any of the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. I think my favorite was 15.

    Maggie Ann True Armstrong

  8. I haven't listened to many audio books, but so far my favorite has been "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah.

  9. Very cool interview! I've never heard from a book narrators perspective.
    I've actually never listened to a book on audio before.

  10. I haven't listened to any audiobooks yet but I do have HOME FRONT waiting for me to try!

  11. Harry Potter as read by Stephen Fry.

    bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

  12. I have never listened to an audiobook but I would like to.


  13. I must say you really have a great book review blog, it's different from all the others. I like the way you actually interview the author directly and show a picture of the author and so we learn more about the author and their current projects etc.
    I listen to a radio show called The Book Report which plays on Sundays, I don't know if you know it, where Elaine Charles intervew's prominent authors and discusses the background and the research involved in current books. What I like about the show is that you get to know more about your favorite authors. You might want to listen to some of the recordings of these shows on

  14. I love Sue Grafton's audiobooks. To me the narrator *is* Kinsey Milhone.

  15. I am listening to The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith right now!

  16. I have listened to several of James Patterson's audio books. They are the only ones I have listened to but would really enoy listening to more.


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